Books Read in 2018

Happy New Year everyone! Every end of the year for a number of years now I post a list of the books I’ve finished reading in that year. I’m sorry I don’t have time to also put in the corresponding links to Amazon but you can always look these books up yourself. So here they are.

January

  • Sepallo’s THE HAPPINESS TRACK. A self-help book on “How to apply the science of happiness to accelerate your success.” Imagine that! Happiness is a science now. Continue reading “Books Read in 2018”

The Happiness Track

Today is Saturday. Yes, I did post yesterday that I’ll be posting a Dennis’ Reader’s Diary article only once a week [note to Philippine Theo Law Gee readers: I originally posted this on my FB page]; but on Saturday mornings I usually do nothing but read (unless I have a class to teach), and today – Saturday – I finished reading Emma Seppala’s The Happiness Track, and I just have this urge to share what I’ve learned from this very good book, which I’m now recommending to all of you. Here are some of the ideas I got from this book:

– A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

– Your fatigue is mostly psychological.

– Keep calm and carry on.

– Imagination is more important than knowledge.

– Walking boosts creativity.

– The more creative you become, the more joy you invite into your life.

– Believe in efforts, not strengths.

– “Failure is success in progress.” (Einstein)

– Our beliefs largely determine whether we learn new skills.

– The experience, succeed or fail, is a form of success in itself.

– Gratitude balances our negativity bias.

– Writing about your emotions can help regulate them.

– Selfishness prevents success.

– Excessive positive regard can make you blind to your own weaknesses.

– If you are unkind to someone, they are likely to reciprocate.

– Self-focus damages physical and emotional health.

I found much of what the book has to say quite helpful and I’m glad I read it. But what I found interesting is that a lot of what it says coincides with the Bible’s teaching, especially the last chapter on “Why Compassion Serves You Better Than Self- Interest.” Seppala says, “[E]xcessive self-esteem can be harmful because it usually entails comparing yourself to others. Psychologists call this the ‘better than average effect’ …” She goes on to say, “While self-focus is associated with poor outcomes on both personal and professional levels, focusing on other people – that is, other-focus, especially in the form of compassion – leads to tremendous benefits.”

More than 1500 years ago, however, the Apostle Paul already wrote, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, ESV)

The Happiness Track is a good book. I’m happy to recommend it. But a much greater book is the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. Nothing beats what it has to teach about true happiness: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

A Little Greed?

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“So how do you beat laziness? Once again, the answer is a little greed… Without that little greed, the desire to have something better, progress is not made… So whenever you find yourself avoiding something you know you should be doing, then the only thing to ask yourself is, “What’s in it for me?” Be a little greedy. It’s the best cure for laziness.”

(Robert T. Kiyosaki)

Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad is a bestseller – and for good reason. It offers a lot of common sense, practical advice on how to get rich, which many people find helpful. The quote above tells us what he thinks could motivate a person to overcome his or her laziness: a little greed. To be fair, he is not advocating excessive greed. But maybe his use of the word “greed” is ill-advised; what he probably means is simply the desire to improve one’s lot in life, which in and of itself isn’t wrong. Be that as it may, I still feel uneasy with his use of the word “greed,” little or otherwise.

Jesus, on the other hand, is unequivocal in his stand against greed. In Luke 12:15 he says, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” It seems he doesn’t distinguish between little or much greed. Greed is greed! And if greed is what Kiyosaki is really advocating, then I’ll have to demur on this particular point. Having said that, I still think his book deserves to be the bestseller that it is.

 

What I’m Reading

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“If a person has a contribution to make, he must make it in public. If learning is not made public, it is a waste.” (Potok’s THE CHOSEN)

One of things I’d like to do this 2018 is to share what I’ve learned from the books I’ve read. I’ve been encouraged to do this when I came across my friend Don Biadog’s Daily Devotions which he regularly posts on FB. Here is a list of the books I’m presently reading and I hope some of you will be encouraged to read them.

– Devotional: ESV Reader’s Bible; T. Keller’s God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life
– Kindle: Maurer’s One Small Step Can Change Your Life
– Theology: Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (Calvin’s Own Essential Edition)
– Fiction: Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
– Poetry: Penguin’s Poems by Heart
– History: Needham’s 2000 Years of Christ’s Power: The Middle Ages
– Biography: Auchincloss’ Woodrow Wilson
– Philosophy: Luc Ferry’s A Brief History of Thought
– Self-Help – Seppala’s The Happiness Track
– Financial Intelligence: Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad
– Non-fiction – T. L. Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late

Books Read in 2017

  1. Reinke’s NEWTON ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
  2. R. Holiday’s THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY
  3. Jacob’s A THEOLOGY OF READING
  4. Dreher’s THE BENEDICT OPTION
  5. Dreher’s HOW DANTE CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE
  6. Homer’s ODYSSEY (Fagles’ translation)
  7. Nimmo’s BARTH
  8. Christensen’s HOW WILL YOU MEASURE YOUR LIFE?
  9. MAMMOTH BOOK OF WORLD’S GREATEST CHESS GAMES
  10. John Flavel’s SAINT INDEED (in Works, vol. 5)
  11. Augustine’s CITY OF GOD (Bettleson’s translation)
  12. Sam Storms’ PACKER ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
  13. E. Smith’s THE POWER OF MEANING
  14. N.T. Wright’s SURPRISED BY HOPE

Charitable Reading for Lawyers

I’ve just finished reading Alan Jacobs’ A Theology of Reading: A Hermeneutics of Love. It’s a book I need to reread in order to understand it better. But I’ve already learned a number of valuable things from it. Such as, read with this motivation: Love for God and love for neighbor. Whether you eventually agree with the author you’re reading or not, treat her with respect because she’s made in God’s image. She’s your neighbor whom you should love. It doesn’t mean you have to like or agree with everything she writes, but love requires that you at least first listen carefully and respectfully to what she has to say.

Then there’s Jacobs’ point about honoring the gift that the author and her work represents. We have to receive it with gratitude for the gift that it is. And this applies even to books I might not like. Even those books might teach me something valuable: things in my own thinking I need to correct, or convictions I hold that the author unintentionally confirms or even strengthens, because by reading her I see the errors she espouses even more clearly.

Of course, this might not apply to all books, i.e., I don’t have to read every book with the same degree of affection. We do have a right to choose our friends, and our books. But when it so happens that we meet an enemy whom we can’t or should not avoid, we, or at least I, as a Christian, am called to love even my enemy. That is, I’m called to read an “enemy” (whether it’s the book itself or the author thereof) with at least the proper care and respect due it/her, if not with affection.

So read lovingly but at the same time exercise discernment. The Bible does say something about doing good to all people, but especially to those who belong to the household of faith. Also, I remember reading somewhere in the New Testament (I can’t remember whether it’s in Peter or Paul) that “Bad company corrupts good morals.” So, yes, exercise discernment. Love doesn’t require that I read trash, especially when there are so many good books and so little time to read all of them.

Interestingly, Jacobs has taught me something I very much need in my law practice. I get quite stressed and anxious every time I receive an opposing counsel’s brief or pleading. My tendency is to put off reading it until the very last minute. I consider it a threat – a threat to my ego, my intelligence, my work, etc. I mean, here’s a piece of writing that’s out to destroy me and my client! It’s adversarial, it’s hostile, it’s an enemy. But then because of Jacobs, I’ve gained a new perspective: Here’s an opportunity to practice love. I need to read this out of love for God and neighbor. I need to show my opponent’s pleading with proper care and respect, not only for the sake of defending my client’s interests well, but because opposing counsel is made in God’s image. That doesn’t mean I should agree with everything she has written, or excuse any falsehoods or misleading statements in it; but instead of being anxious, afraid, or angry, I should simply read out of love for a neighbor who is a sinner just like me, and who is made in the image of God just like I am. If she writes like an “enemy” (which in my profession is most often the case, and she probably sees me in the same way too – sometimes, sad to say, with justification!), then I remind myself of Romans 12:20-21: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” And for all I know, that threatening bundle of pages is a gift: either something that directly sheds light on the truth, or something that makes the light of truth stand out because of the contrast the darkness (read: errors, falsehoods, misleading statements, etc.), if any, that that brief or pleading provides.

So thank you, Jacobs: Charitable reading is a gem of an idea for law practice!